Apr 28, 2023 - Business

The Shift: VCs make it rain in Northwest Arkansas

Illustration of a weather forecast, stylized as rain made of money.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

At least two companies — software-makers Ox and Wishfluence — have received recent investments, and Atento Capital of Tulsa, Oklahoma, has launched a fund focused on the "heartland."

Why it matters: Access to investment helps young companies grow and builds on NWA's entrepreneurial ecosystem — and its shift to a more diversified economy.

Catch up quick: In chronological order...

1. Bentonville's Ox said Tuesday it raised $12.6 million in venture capital.

  • Ox is focused on frontline workers in the supply chain industry. Its core tech is a wearable device that uses voice and visual inputs running through AI software to help employees work more efficiently.
  • Founder and CEO Charu Thomas said it means the company can hire more software engineers and scale the business.

2. App maker Wishfluence announced Wednesday it received a $100,000 investment from the Winrock International Validation Fund.

  • The app is designed for jewelry retailers to easily create customer wish lists and build databases in hopes of encouraging more purchases.
  • CEO and co-founder Andy Martin says the money will help him focus on the business, which could ultimately have applications beyond the jewelry industry.

3. Atento Capital said Thursday its new $100 million fund backed by the George Kaiser Family Foundation aims to support tech startups.

  • While software for health care, supply chain and mobility are key focus areas for Atento, founder Michael Basch, tells Worth it zeroes in on talented company leaders.
  • The VC firm has invested about $5.8 million in NWA companies in the past year, Basch said.

Flashback: Atento Capital launched 412 Angels last May to connect entrepreneurs and would-be investors with early-stage startups in Tulsa and Northwest Arkansas.

  • The group has hosted about a dozen events in each market so far, Basch said, and the "trajectory is positive."

The bottom line: Lack of capital has been the sticking point for NWA's entrepreneurs for decades, but public commitments like these help attract startup talent to the region.

🤑 The Shift is a regular feature to catch up quick on what's happening in Arkansas' economy and entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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